Unions provide attorneys and legal coverage for their members.  Sometimes employers provide attorneys for their employees.  Do they have legal malpractice responsibility to the member-employee ?  Does the attorney have a legal malpractice responsibility to the client, in the absence of privity?  Some answers are set forth in   NADA, -against- 1199 SEIU HEALTH CARE EMPLOYEES UNION, 09 Civ. 5796 (SAS);UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK;2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12061;February 11, 2010,

Take this situation.  Client is a member of a union that provides legal free attorneys to its members. Perhaps the client needs an attorney for a closing, or to handle a simple contract.  In most cases, the attorney and the client do not sign a retainer agreement.  The attorney is paid, in some fashion, by the union, or in some cases, by the employer.  Then something goes wrong.  The main doctrinal problem in a legal malpractice analysis is that there is no professional relationship between the attorney and the client.  Resort  to an argument that the relationship is "so close" as to resemble privity often fails.  What then?

A suit against the union for lack of fair representation, or against the employer for breach of a collective bargaining agreement is one resort.  If that is the action, what is the statute of limitations?

Judge Scheindlin in Nada tells us: ‘Liberally construed, Nada alleges that 1199 has breached its duty of fair representation. 12 In DelCostelio v. Teamsters, the Supreme Court held that the six-month statute of limitations of section 10(b) of the National Labor Relations Act applies to cases in which employees sue both their employer for breach of the collective [*5] bargaining agreement pursuant to section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, and their union for breach of its duty of fair representation. 13 In reaching this conclusion, the Court rejected the notion that state statute of limitation periods for vacating an arbitration award and for legal malpractice were applicable to such claims. 14 The Second Circuit has held "DelCostello to require that the § 10(b) six-month limitations period also be applied to unfair representation claims standing alone…."

"Here, Nada asserts that 1199 breached the duty of fair representation by failing to remedy the pay differential for certain of the former-144 members through the committee created by the May 2004 side letter agreement. Nada was aware of this claim on October 30, 2007, when he signed a grievance form complaining about 1199’s failure to secure the raises and benefits mentioned in that agreement. Therefore, the six-month limitation period in which to bring this cause of action expired, at the latest, on April 30, 2007. Because Nada did not commence this action until June 5, 2009, it is untimely."

 

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Andrew Lavoott Bluestone

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened his private law office and took his first legal malpractice case.

Since 1989, Bluestone has become a leader in the New York Plaintiff’s Legal Malpractice bar, handling a wide array of plaintiff’s legal malpractice cases arising from catastrophic personal injury, contracts, patents, commercial litigation, securities, matrimonial and custody issues, medical malpractice, insurance, product liability, real estate, landlord-tenant, foreclosures and has defended attorneys in a limited number of legal malpractice cases.

 

Bluestone also took an academic role in field, publishing the New York Attorney Malpractice Report from 2002-2004.  He started the “New York Attorney Malpractice Blog” in 2004, where he has published more than 4500 entries.

Mr. Bluestone has written 38 scholarly peer-reviewed articles concerning legal malpractice, many in the Outside Counsel column of the New York Law Journal. He has appeared as an Expert witness in multiple legal malpractice litigations.

Mr. Bluestone is an adjunct professor of law at St. John’s University College of Law, teaching Legal Malpractice.  Mr. Bluestone has argued legal malpractice cases in the Second Circuit, in the New York State Court of Appeals, each of the four New York Appellate Divisions, in all four of  the U.S. District Courts of New York and in Supreme Courts all over the state.  He has also been admitted pro haec vice in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida and was formally admitted to the US District Court of Connecticut and to its Bankruptcy Court all for legal malpractice matters. He has been retained by U.S. Trustees in legal malpractice cases from Bankruptcy Courts, and has represented municipalities, insurance companies, hedge funds, communications companies and international manufacturing firms. Mr. Bluestone regularly lectures in CLEs on legal malpractice.

Based upon his professional experience Bluestone was named a Diplomate and was Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in 2008 in Legal Malpractice. He remains Board Certified.  He was admitted to The Best Lawyers in America from 2012-2019.  He has been featured in Who’s Who in Law since 1993.

In the last years, Mr. Bluestone has been featured for two particularly noteworthy legal malpractice cases.  The first was a settlement of an $11.9 million dollar default legal malpractice case of Yeo v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman which was reported in the NYLJ on August 15, 2016. Most recently, Mr. Bluestone obtained a rare plaintiff’s verdict in a legal malpractice case on behalf of the City of White Plains v. Joseph Maria, reported in the NYLJ on February 14, 2017. It was the sole legal malpractice jury verdict in the State of New York for 2017.

Bluestone has been at the forefront of the development of legal malpractice principles and has contributed case law decisions, writing and lecturing which have been recognized by his peers.  He is regularly mentioned in academic writing, and his past cases are often cited in current legal malpractice decisions. He is recognized for his ample writings on Judiciary Law § 487, a 850 year old statute deriving from England which relates to attorney deceit.